Voyeur God comes to sordid Sydney


X (MA). Director: Jon Hewitt. Starring: Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Stephen Phillips, Eamon Farren, Peter Docker. 85 minutes

A late night taxi hoons along a Sydney street. Its passengers have witnessed a murder, and fled. One, Shay (Lawrence), is a teenage hooker, in the midst of her first hellish night on the job. The other is a high-class call girl whose retirement plans have been disrupted by the night's violent turn.

As Holly (Bianca) stares through the window at the anxious, shadowy shopfronts blurring past outside, she sees the metre-high scrawl of a single word in a store window: RUN. Moments later, just as the wisdom of this ominous sign is sinking in, it is reinforced by a second, further along the street: NOW.

By this stage of the new Australian film X, we've already seen plenty of it s sordid face. Now we get a sense of its numinous depths: this succinct message of warning seems telegraphed to Holly from some place far removed from her ordinary reality. It becomes clear that there are mystical dimensions to this 'erotic thriller' that allow it to transcend such generic labelling.

Which is not to say X's human realities are not also profound. From the outset it pointedly contrasts its two central characters, who are prototypes of the sex industry. Shay has entered it from a place of desperation; from an abusive stepfather and a junkie mother who has recently died, into the clutches of predatory men, in the hope she can eke out a more bearable living on the street.

Holly, on the other hand, has lived a glamourous lifestyle, funded by her services to wealthy clientele over the course of a decade. She knows the dehumanising nature of her work, but she has luxurious dreams and has seen her career to date as a means to an end. She has accumulated her own small fortune and, when we first meet her, she is on the brink of retiring to a new life in Paris.

The film portrays the events leading up to Holly's accidental encounter with Shay, and to the murder of one of her clients by a crooked cop called Bennett (Phillips). It then follows the two women's flight (and fight) for the their lives among the drug-sex-and-violence-addled witching hours of Sydney's seedier bars and backstreets. It is thrilling, and at times both graphic and gratuitous.

But X returns to that sense of something beyond the women's dire human existence. At one point Shay befriends Harry (Farren), a taxi driver who aspires to be a Vegas magician. He hynotises her: his twirling golden charm blurs in close-up against a field of black, juxtaposed with images of his and her gaping eyes. Cinematically, the effect is mystical. For Shay, it's a too-brief moment of lightness.

It can't last. In X, mysticism is momentary, magic a mere reprieve. Things get worse for Shay and Holly as the sadistic Bennett and Holly's deadly lover (Docker) bear down upon them. To their credit, both Shay and Holly value compassion and self-sacrifice even (or especially) in the face of peril. In this X contains some hope that humanity can survive, even when sometimes human life does not.

There is an image, deep within X's dying moments, where dawn is glimpsed through shredded clouds. One cloud in particular, dark and pregnant, is locked in battle with the burgeoning rays. For the women at the heart of X, this is the perennial conflict writ large: hope at loggerheads with desolation. If there's a God in their world, he simply watches, rather than watching over.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street

Topic tags: Tim Kroenert, Jon Hewitt, X, prostitution, sex industry



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Existing comments

Tim, the last comment in your review I found most enlihtening - "if there's a God in their world, he simply watches, rather than watching over."

Maybe we could all reflect this Advent on the God in our 'world' [read life].
Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 01 December 2011

What was the beautiful statement of faith by songwriter/artist Nic Cave? 'I don't believe in an interventionist God...into my arms, O Lord, into my arms...'

Christ's declaration that 'the kingdom of God is among you', and his wry observation that prostitutes and crooked tax collectors will enter heaven before the clergy and the 'elders of the people'/respectable pillars of community, point the way to this film's relevance. Thank you guys for an insightful article on a sad topic.

The exploitation of the lonely and the 'incomplete' by the sex industry is not going anywhere, nor is its profit margin, nor the bleaker pursuit of fulfillment over the bodies of those used.
Barry G | 01 December 2011

Eureka Street has published some rubbish this week culminating (I hope) in that piece on graffiti. Tim Kroenert's review and Lyn Bender's reflections have, today, more than compensated for recent lapses.
grebo | 01 December 2011

Another Australian pornographic immoral movie that glamourises the seedy sordidness of Godless men and women. Why are these sorts of movies made? No respectable person should watch this filth. Certainly no Catholic should watch this movie, and others like it, as you are committing a mortal sin and offending God greatly.
Trent | 01 December 2011

Trent have you seen this movie? If so, have you sinned? If not, on what basis do you express an opinion?
grebo | 01 December 2011

I have not seen this movie nor do I ever intend to watch it.

I have read reviews of this movie and plain old fashioned common sense dictates that it is not a suitable movie for anyone to make, let alone watch.

Just check out the first paragraph of the review site given below and you know immediately that it is a low life worthless filthy piece of pornography and should be found vile and offensive by any right-thinking modest minded adult.

Trent | 01 December 2011

Fr Mick
I am puzzled as to your enlightenment
I found the phrase puzzling and it reinforced my atheism
What possible use is a voyeur God
GAJ | 01 December 2011

GAJ, I am puzzled that you would allow someone else's explanation or description of God to justify or reinforce atheism. The mystery of God I think is better contemplated by deciding what God is not (via negative). Heaven knows there are lots of examples of what God is not in all our organised religions and sadly many people decide to become atheists because they haven't seen any good come out of them,,, Maybe atheists, agnostics, doubters and closer to mystical union with the divine.
AURELIUS | 04 December 2011

Mysticism is not had 'on the cheap' by mesmerizing gymnastics [though god sends actual graces to the prostitute in amazing ways to work conversion through real events not cinematographic 'tricks' god as a voyeur is standard blasphemy by a 'reel' brain versus 'real' brain-to judge god through a dirty pic is Eureka pits god embroils himself through honest-to-goodness INSTRUMENTS Before my paralysing stroke and successful cancer op, I brought back to the faith and gave weekly communion and last rites to now deceased Chow Hayes the stand over man for Tilly Divine[ Madam of Sydney brothels AND sly grog outlets of the 1950s Darlinghurst]-this dreaded underworld murderer and slasher accidentally bumped into me in my Sydney parish Lidcombe[that intervention by Divine Providence resulted in a remorseful "return"of Chow[in divine irony the man 'chow' shot 11 times in the Ziegfeld club Sydney and 'got life for' was my distant relative-Previously in his biography Chow pledged never to have anything to do with religion-BUT GOD IS NOT A VOYEUR BUT A FRONT LINE GOOD SHEPHERD[AGAIN CINEMATIC 'REEL' LIFE DISTORTS 'REAL LIFE' simply for sleaze entertainment and gross blasphemy-[SHAME ON YOU E.S.]
Father John Michael George | 14 December 2011

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